In the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 9 and 10, Jesus sends out the Twelve to proclaim the Gospel and to heal the sick. He tells them to leave their wallets at home and to depend on the hospitality of those who will hear their preaching and whose illnesses they will heal. Now that’s what I call venturing out in faith! Even though I love to travel, I’m uncomfortable traveling without a reservation where I will spend the night. I can’t imagine setting out without my ATM or credit card!
It wasn’t always that way. I used to be more adventurous. I was willing to sleep in the back of the car — no tent — no bathroom. I probably got out of the habit when, to quote my wife, Andrea, about her view of camping: “it took humankind millions of years to crawl out from the caves, why should I want to go back?” I haven’t camped for awhile now — and I prefer to keep it that way!
But Jesus sent out the Twelve with the instruction that they were to trust in the hospitality of the strangers they would visit to teach about the Gospel.
When Jesus says to trust these people, he is really telling them to trust him – and that means to trust God.
Jesus admits that he is sending them out among wolves. But he tells them not to adopt their vicious ways, but to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (10:16). He tells them not to be afraid. Anyone can kill the body. But only God has power over the body and soul.
That’s the prequel to this morning’s scripture lesson. Today we hear: “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward;
and whoever welcomes a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous;
and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
So Jesus explains to the Twelve that God is on their side. Here’s how:
— If someone does something good for you, God will count it as if they had done it for God. God will bless them.
— If someone gives you a place to stay, it will be as if they gave lodging to God. God will bless them.
— If someone gives you a meal, it will be as if they had provided the meal for God. God will bless them.
— If someone gives you a drink of cold water, it will be as if they had provided God with a drink. God will bless them. Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
So don’t worry. God will take care of you. People along the way will become agents of God’s mercy and will provide what is needed.
Don’t worry that you are taking advantage of others by depending upon them in this way. It’s just the opposite. When anyone helps the Twelve, God will reward that person with blessings. It is as if the Twelve are the givers and not the receivers. They are providing people with opportunities to receive God’s blessings. Imagine if at Christmas every wanted the “good feelings” of giving gifts and there was no one to receive the.
This promise goes further! God will bless not only those who help the Twelve, God will also bless anyone who helps a “righteous person.” Jesus means you, me and ordinary church folks. And the promise goes still further! God will bless those who even help even the “little ones.” Jesus is talking about people who aren’t even sitting in church pews or even heard about Him.
Jesus says, “whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”
That is great news! Most of us would love to be more talented — to be able to do wonderful things for Christ — to preach — or to sing beautiful solos — or to captivate people with great teaching — or to give a million dollars to build a new church — or to give a billion dollars to solve the problem of world hunger — or whatever!
Or when we read the story of Noah, we wish that could build an ark. When we read the story of David, we wish that we could kill a giant. When we read the story of Daniel, we wish that we could sleep in the lion’s den. Oh, there are so many things that we wish we could do. But God called most of us to ordinary things. We may teach — or we may set up the classroom. We may preach — or we may hand out bulletins. We may serve the Lord’s Supper — or we may clean up afterwards. Most of Christ’s work — like most of life — is very ordinary stuff.
The good news today is that God gives great blessings, not only to disciples and righteous persons, “little ones” and to those who help prophets and righteous persons give cups of cold water to those who need them. So we live in a world full of potential blessings. There are more blessings out there, just waiting to be harvested, than we can begin to imagine!
God has placed more blessings within the confines of these four walls than we will ever collect. Today every person in this congregation needs a kind word, and Christ promises us a blessing for each kind word that we give. There are people here today who need our prayers, and Christ promises us a blessing for every prayer that we offer. There are people here today who will, during the week, need a ride to the doctor — or to the grocery store — or a friendly phone call — and Christ promises us a blessing for every person whom we help — for even small favors – for providing a cup of cold water. Who cannot afford to give someone a cup of cold water!
This church is jam-packed with blessings waiting to be harvested. It is like an orchard full of apples ready to be picked. Thousands blessings here today– blessings for us to give and blessings for us to receive. Will we will leave most of them behind when we go home? Will we leave kind words unsaid, and prayers un-prayed, and kindnesses un-offered?
Today will be different! Today we will speak the kind words. Today we will pray for Christian brothers and sisters who need God’s help. Today we will pick up the phone and call someone who needs encouragement. When we do these things, we give a blessing to the other person –our cup runs over– and God promises to give us blessings in return. Yes, let this will be the week that we will harvest a thousand blessings! (Let us pray that it is!)
Each of our lives is like a cup that is filled to the brim. If you’ve ever tried to carry so full a cup, you recall how difficult it was not to spill some. It was filled to capacity. Why struggle so hard to balance it? Why not share some of it? Pour some of your plenty upon the lives of others. And receive the abundant blessings that our God has promised.
May you realize God’s blessing this morning.